New Opportunity for Area Farmers Announced by the NRCS

Row crop farmers in Iowa’s Prairie Pothole Region in northern Iowa have an opportunity through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive payments on cropped wetlands by protecting flood-prone areas.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is managing the new Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program. NRCS staff are accepting applications through May 29.

Water-saturated portions of cropland fields can cause environmental problems and financial losses for Iowa farmers in the Prairie Pothole Region. The new Prairie Pothole program gives farmers an opportunity to implement conservation practices on the wettest areas of their farm.

Kurt Simon, State Conservationist for NRCS in Iowa, says a primary goal of the program is to improve water quality in the Pothole region. “Most of the natural potholes in Iowa have been drained. Tile drainage systems often carry polluted water to nearby streams and rivers,” he said. “We hope that by seeding these areas down, we address the most susceptible areas and help improve wildlife habitat in a cropped area.”

The Prairie Pothole program includes three option levels:

  • Option Level 1 – Where potholes have been drained, eligible farmers seed down conservation cover and manage it as wetland wildlife habitat for the remaining four years of the contract. The wetland area must be wholly or partially in cropland. The payment rate for Level 1 begins at $390 per acre.
  • Option Level 2 – In areas where original potholes remain, the producer agrees to cease cropping a two-acre or smaller area and maintain hydrology. Producers receive a five-year contract for wetland wildlife habitat management. The payment rate for Level 2 begins at $367 per acre.
  • Option Level 3 – In areas where original potholes remain, the producer refrains from harvesting crops or annual vegetation from a two-acre or smaller area during the primary nesting season as identified by the habitat evaluation guide. The payment rate for Level 3 begins at $262 per acre.

Conservation cover is permanent vegetation, which could include introduced cool season grasses and legumes or native grasses and forbs, established on cropped wetland areas that need permanent cover to help improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

Wetland wildlife habitat management means retaining, developing or managing wetland habitat and communities for wetland wildlife.

To learn more about the Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program, visit www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local USDA Service Center.

NRCS staff are working and available by phone or e-mail while taking safety measures in response to COVID-19. While access is restricted to the buildings, our services are still available via phone appointment or by email. Please visit https://www.farmers.gov/connect to find your local office and employee contact information.

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